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Visual Analysis of U.S. Newspaper Publications from 1690 – 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stanford University’s Rural West Initiative has created a neat visual analysis tool which displays newspaper publications over the past three centuries. It also shows key events that have had a positive and negative effect on the proliferation of newspapers in the continental United States.

What I Liked

  • The annotations to display key events were a great addition and important to the story. They provide necessary historical context which helps the viewer interpret the data being shown.
  • The ability to zoom in to key areas to look at outliers (anomalies)
  • The tool tips are a great way to provide more detail about a data point
  • The ability to filter languages makes it easier to see them, and tells an different story for each language

Design Recommendations

Overall, I like what the guys at Stanford did as the visualization tells a great story. However, as with any design, there’s always room for improvement. Here are some things I would suggest.

  • It would have been neat if the year slider at the top had ‘play’ functionality, rather than having this as a separate video, to show the changes over time
  • A minor detail, but the year labels above the slider control are cluttered; the year labels could have been placed above and below the slider in an alternating fashion
  • In the later years, it’s hard to see changes because of the density of newspapers. The ability to only show changes (both new and expiring publications) would have been quite useful. One possible way to accomplish this would be the use of a transition animation. I.e. the interface could gray out the existing bubbles and fade in the new ones.

All in all, a great data visualization!

NOTE: the link to the interactive visual analysis may take some time to load; you may want to consider watching the video while you wait for it to load.

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